Pemberton is one of the bigger trail towns we walk through and has 2 pubs! It also has a good size supermarket and bottle store. But best of all it has a place where we can buy our favourite dehydrated meals! Great, we won't be eating too much spam on this leg of the trip!
We decided to treat ourselves with a spa unit at the Gloucester Motel as we have now passed half way. The spa unit was a self contained unit more like a small house with a kitchen and separate bedroom, but no separate bathroom! The spa and shower was right in the bedroom with a shower screen divider for the toilet only! That ended up being a good thing as Christine could just roll out of the king size bed and into the giant bath at will. It got some heavy use I can assure you and when we left we were spotlessly clean and ready to play in the dirt and mud again.
A main attraction for Pemberton is the Gloucester Tree. It's a large Karri tree that has been pegged with big spikes to make a ladder around the trunk winding all the way to the top. It was used as a fire lookout in days gone by. It's just for the tourists now. I don't know how many people fall or injure themselves on this tree but it looks like a real health and safety nightmare. No net, just a lame warning saying no children to climb the tree. We waited our turn and after a load of kids came down, we made our way to the top. I didn't count the rungs but I did have to stop for a breather half way. It's quite some view from the top and a photo doesn't do it justice. The platform is at 58 meters and is a steel cage with 2 levels. Not too sure the tree is all that happy with it though but it has lasted this long and will no doubt outlast me too. This tree is also right on the trail so it's a bit of a mandatory task and we climbed it in 2012 as well. Pemberton also has a working saw mill processing native timber from plantation forests. At each smoko and lunch break a loud whistle sounds to down tools. We could still hear it a days walk from town and didn't need to check our watch to know when lunch was!
We have been in and out of our 'bubble' and think K1 and K2 had an extra day off in Pemberton. We still trail Mick and Erin by a day or 2 and in this section we haven't had the shelters and campsites to ourselves a lot. We did at Schafer Dam shelter and that meant bath time! Nice but very, very cold. We have run across quite a few north bound end to end hikers on this section. It's handy to get the low down on what's up ahead for us. Every now and then we run into some people who remind us why we love the bubble. We stayed at a shelter with 2 ladies. We chatted with them over dinner about the normal things, days walk, trail conditions, people we have met and the like. That night one stayed in her tent while the other stayed in the shelter with us, but also in her tent. This is not uncommon and it's usually to keep the bugs away or for some privacy, the shelters are large enough if it's only a few of us there. At 6:30pm they went to bed! A bit early... We like to keep our hours as close to normal as we can, 8:00pm is a good bed time (albeit a bit early for town days) somethings 9:00pm. We are very careful to stay quiet when others are sleeping and that night was no different. At 5:45am the next morning stomp stomp stomp crash bang! In came the first lady with her tent... WHAT?? Each shelter has a table outside, I asked if it was raining? No. Please do that outside then! The second lady then said 'it's ok I am getting up now too' as if to justify the noise.. Not much you can do other than roll over and wish we were far far away comfortable in our wee bubble!
The weather is still good most days but we have had rain. We have been quite lucky with the weather and so far we haven't had to do any walking in the worst of it, just showers. It tends to rain early morning and late evening and sometimes overnight. A problem when we are sleeping in the tent though as our tent floor has lost its waterproofing! Our mattresses keep us off the ground and dry enough but still not ideal so we will be buying a new (larger) tent for the trip in the USA. This one has lasted 10 years so I suppose that's a lifetime for a tent these days. Problem is we tend to carry it often but it hasn't had too much use in its 10 year life! As I write this, we don't expect to have to use the tent again on this trip as all the shelters are standing from here south so it's just filling out my pack now. A major storm is due to hit the south but during that time we will be in town warm and dry!
We walked 3 days from Pemberton to Northclife for a small resupply. On our last trip we stayed in Northclife but this time we decided to walk through and camp 10kms out to make the next day a little shorter. A good plan but we needed to find a camp site. We ended up staying in the middle of the track again, it was a great sleep! Northclife was great! We sat outside the general store and gas station and made room for the extra food in our packs and ended up staying much longer than planned because everyone that came in and out wanted to chat about the trail and our plans. It was a nice time and we left thinking it was not such a bad place after all. I'm not sure how we ended up discussing the book 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' with one local lady but it sure was funny!
On this section 2 shelters have been burnt to the ground in recent bush fires. They're are in the process of being rebuilt now and the area is more worksite than bush camp. We skipped one by doing a 'double' meaning we walked two days walk in one day. We were lucky the days were shortish anyway but still tough going with 25kms walked that day. As we were heading to the shelter that was being rebuilt, we met the builder walking the other way and of course had to have a chat. It's surprising that they are all covered by insurance for fire and he is working for the insurance company rather than the Bibbulmun Track Foundation. The new shelters are going to be very nice and this time will not be made from timber but local 'desert pea' and cement block walls with steel roof beams and iron roof. Fire proof? Maybe more than the timber shelters... Reading between the lines I think this has been a condition from the insurer as they are currently rebuilding 4 at a cost of 100k each! Sadly we will never get to stay in one of the new ones unless we come back for a 3rd end to end... unlikely.
The trail on this section is different to anything we have seen so far. We have crossed some of the coastal plains and are now heading east along the south coast. It was great to be able to hear the surf from the shelter the first night we got close. After that day we started to head east and moved away from the coast a bit only to hit the coast and beach 2 days out of Walpole. The trail is now very sandy and in the dunes, it is brutal and energy sapping, especially when we have to climb over dunes. We've also seen more wildlife in the last few days coming across some kangaroos right on the trail, also our first snake. A small tiger snake that was sunbathing on the trail. Other hikers say they hear the snakes rustling in the leaves as they slither off the trail before they see them. We don't as we often hike with earphones on. Nothing better than listening to some Shihad really loud in the wilderness! I have found I can walk exactly in time to 'The Call' from Shihad's Killjoy album. Every beat in time.... it's mint! Long trail hiking is great for catching up on music you haven't listened to for a while. I also listen to podcasts and have listened to the entire Freakonomics series. Never bored! We have seen lots of wild flowers in the last few days. Some due to the season and some due to recent fires. They are all very small and colorful and although we don't have all day to stop and look at flowers I have a few seconds to get some photos!
Our first day walking in the sand dunes was hard and not only because of the up and down and soft sand. We had bugs! Gnats. Billions and billions of gnats. It was overcast but still hot so we were sweating a lot and when we walked through a cloud of them about 200,000 would stick to any exposed skin. I was more fortunate than Christine as my beard filtered most of them out but I think I ate at least 50,000 of them that day. It was pretty bad because we could see clouds of them in the air and in front of us and our only option was to keep walking knowing we were going to be plastered in them each time. Again the photos don't show the full horror of it all... hehe still beats working though! We stayed in our tent inside the shelter that night!
The last day into Walpole was another double but only 24kms total. We left the coast and the sand dunes for now and have headed inland back to the forest again. We have had a glimpse of what's to come but I will leave that for the next post.
it's Our Epic Trip...
David & Christine are from New Zealand and are embarking on a trip around the world the slow way, on foot and by personal vehicle. This could get interesting!